John Paul II Appeals for Respect of Christians' Rights in Egypt

Reaffirms Need for Interreligious Dialogue to Build Peace

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2004 ( John Paul II appealed for respect of the fundamental rights of Christians, when he received Egypt’s new ambassador to the Holy See.

«To ensure peace, well-being and the security of citizens is one of the first responsibilities of the state,» the Pope explained to the envoy.

«This implies ensuring the equality of all before the law,» the Holy Father added, quoting the very words of the ambassador, Nevine Simaika Halim.

«I know that I can count on the vigilance of the Egyptian authorities to ensure in particular to all citizens the principle of the freedom of worship and religion, which is an eminent form of the freedom of persons, and which, therefore, forms part of the fundamental human rights,» he said.

«I call the attention of all leaders of civil society in order that these rights of people are effectively respected wherever communities of Christians live, without their having to fear any type of discrimination or violence,» the Pope said.

«For their part, Catholics in Egypt are happy to participate actively in the development of their country, committing themselves to establish peaceful relations with their compatriots,» the Holy Father told the Egyptian envoy.

John Paul II emphasized that religions must play an important role in building peace.

«All have a word on man, which affects his duties before the Creator, before himself, and before his fellowmen; they spread a teaching that honors life as a sacred gift of God, which man must respect and love,» he said.

«Religions are called to commit themselves decidedly to denounce and reject all recourse to violence as contrary to their own end, which is, precisely, that of reconciling men among themselves and with God,» the Pope continued.

Therefore, the Pontiff appealed to all religious representatives to combat and reject in their teachings «all sectarian views» and to develop and foster all that «permits a more profound understanding and respect of the other.»

In this connection, John Paul II said that Al-Azhar University in Cairo, considered one of the most important Muslim moral authorities, which he himself visited in February 2000, constitutes «an opportunity for the advancement and intensification of interreligious dialogue, especially between Christians and Muslims.»

«It is necessary to develop a better reciprocal knowledge of the traditions and mentalities of the two religions, of their role in history, as well as of their responsibilities in the contemporary world, through meetings between the religious leaders» and «at the level of persons and communities of believers in cities and villages,» the Holy Father said.

«Mutually esteeming one another, Christians and Muslims will be able to work better together in the service of the cause of peace and of a better future for humanity,» he concluded.

Ambassador Nevine Simaika Halim, a career diplomat, said in her address that her government advocates «a globalization that takes more into account the cultural diversities,» emphasizing «the importance of interreligious dialogue to combat suffering.»

It is necessary to «reinforce the bonds between religions and orient toward solidarity among human beings; it is not a question of ‘praying together, but of being together to pray,'» she said.

In Egypt, 94% of the 76 million inhabitants are Sunni Muslims. Just over 5% of the population is Coptic Christian. According to the Church’s Statistical Yearbook, Catholics constitute 0.35% of the population.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation